“Welcome, fellow cigar aficionados and lovers of all things smokeable,” begins Alexander Gonzalez, one of the hosts of The Cigar Guys. Alongside Mark and Zachary Nikollaj, the trio forms a united front, delving into the world of cigars with unbridled enthusiasm. They are the nucleus of this virtual gathering, sharing insightful musings on cigar culture and its captivating history. This episode has the added thrill of welcoming a special guest, Manolo Santiago of Casa 1910 Cigars.
Casa 1910 has long been synonymous with top-tier quality in the cigar industry. Manolo Santiago, representing this respected brand, is a well-traveled man whose journey across Mexico, Nicaragua, and the Dominican Republic has forged a rich tapestry of tobacco knowledge. With an artisan’s precision and an expert’s discernment, Santiago is known for harmoniously blending different tobacco leaves into a unique, exquisite product.
As Santiago explains, a cigar is not merely a product of combustion; it’s a historical symbol and an art form. The cigar our hosts are smoking today is a Robusto-shaped cigar, christened ‘cuchillo parado.’ This phrase, which translates to ‘knife standing,’ is a tribute to a small town in Chihuahua, Mexico, known for the first battle of the Mexican Revolution.
Just as each battle has its own tale, so does each cigar. The cuchillo parado, for instance, is composed of five different types of tobacco leaves, all aged to perfection before rolling. This cigar, Santiago explains, was designed to pair seamlessly with tequila rosado and tequila anejo – an offering of both a sensory delight and a cultural experience.
Santiago then shares his secret to perfect pairing, explaining the technique as ‘cigar yoga.’ It involves big puffs, holding the smoke, and exhaling slowly, all while savoring the aromatic beverage. This process, Santiago suggests, can transform the smoking experience and deepen one’s appreciation for the complex flavors within each cigar.
Addressing the skeptics, Santiago revisits the 2021 PCA (Premium Cigar Association) event in Las Vegas, where Casa 1910 presented only a single cigar. While the decision to present a single cigar was initially met with surprise, Santiago emphasizes the brand’s commitment to quality over quantity. A good cigar paired with a captivating story can indeed define a brand.
Delving deeper into the history of Mexican cigars, the host, Mark Nikolai, praises Casa 1910 for highlighting the importance of historical events and integrating them into the brand’s narrative. The brand celebrates its heritage with pride, embracing the colorful histories of the Mexican Revolution and translating these narratives into their distinct cigar lines.
The conversation pivots to blend creation’s intricacies and cigar-rolling art. Santiago explains that changing the blend changes the cigar. For him, it is crucial to consider how a blend will express itself in various forms. This realization comes only from extensive experimentation. While having a wide range of options can be beautiful, Santiago acknowledges that it can also be overwhelming for both seasoned aficionados and rookies.
The dialogue then segues into the marketing strategies of Casa 1910. While social media provides an accessible platform for global visibility, Santiago emphasizes that nothing beats face-to-face interactions. Meeting people, visiting tobacco shops, and sharing the brand’s story are paramount. An engaging narrative, paired with a quality product, encourages curiosity, Santiago contends, enhancing consumer engagement.
He goes on to underscore the importance of a brand’s visual presentation. A well-designed box and logo catch the eye and evoke intrigue. For Casa 1910, their logo is a clever analogy – the hand gripping a cigar mimics an eagle clutching a snake in Mexico’s national coat of arms, subtly reimagining an emblem of Mexican heritage and integrating it into their brand’s aesthetic.
As the conversation nears its end, the topic shifts to Santiago’s favorite Casa 1910 cigar. Santiago admits this is a challenging question to answer, as each cigar has its unique flavor profile and narrative. Nevertheless, he reveals his affinity for the ‘Mexican Revolution’ line, particularly the cigar named ‘Temoaya.’ According to Santiago, the Temoaya offers a blend of complexity and balance that resonates with his palate.
When asked about advice for beginners just getting into the world of cigars, Santiago underscores the importance of taking time to explore. Every cigar is a new adventure, and it’s essential to be patient, to savor, and to truly experience the nuances each blend has to offer. Santiago encourages beginners to find a trusted tobacconist who can guide them through this journey.
The episode draws to a close with Santiago sharing a fascinating anecdote about a ‘Casa 1910 Cigar Evening’ held in Mexico City. It was an event that brought together cigar enthusiasts from various walks of life, all united by their love for this ancient tradition. Santiago speaks of the camaraderie and joy that filled the air that evening, emphasizing that the true magic of cigars lies not only in the tobacco leaves but also in the communities they bring together.
Reflecting on Santiago’s journey and his passion for the craft, the hosts of The Cigar Guys appreciate his dedication to sharing the art of cigar smoking with the world. As the episode ends, they thank Santiago for his time and commitment to enriching the cigar culture. They conclude with a promise to their listeners to continue exploring the world of cigars, offering interesting dialogues and unraveled narratives in the episodes to come.
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